ADDIS ABABA - South Sudanese armed and unarmed groups who signed a cease-fire Thursday said they are optimistic that peace will return to South Sudan despite the government’s refusal to renegotiate parts of the failed August 2015 deal.
Martin Elia Lumoro, head of the South Sudan government delegation at the just concluded talks in Addis Ababa, said despite the bitter arguments among various stakeholders, the cease-fire agreement is a good start for the country.
“We start from a very difficult phase in the [IGAD] council [of ministers’ meeting], we managed to pass the view of the government through. Then we had deadlock on the issues of procurement or purchase of weapons. We were able to put our views through and [these] were adopted and we also went through on how to deal with verification mechanism CTSSAM. So that was very good. I think we are making progress,” Lomuro said.
South Sudan Foreign Minister Deng Alor signed the cease-fire accord on behalf of the SPLM Former Political Detainees. He called the accord a "good start."
"I feel happy because the most important issue in that document is the cessation of hostilities during the negotiations period which is very good, it creates confidence building and also gives peace to our people in South Sudan," Alor said.
The former detainees signed the August 2015 peace deal and were given ministerial and parliamentary seats in the Transitional Government of National Unity headed by President Salva Kiir.
The spokesman of the rebel National Salvation Front, Yen Matthew, remains skeptical. He said the deal looks good on paper, but the challenge is in its implementation. Matthew said he still remains hopeful that peace will return to South Sudan.
"I hope all the parties will commit to it and I would like on behalf of National Salvation Front to congratulate the South Sudanese people on this," he said.
The leader of the rebel National Democratic Movement, Lam Akol, could not hide his feelings. He said the cease-fire means a lot to South Sudanese.
The former minister of Agriculture in the Transitional National Government said the people of South Sudan have suffered enough and deserve peace.
‘’It is a Christmas gift for the people of South Sudan provided we respect it. We think that is a good agreement because it allows the guns to be silent, for the humanitarian access for the people and for the parties to be prepared in the next round of talks,’’ he said
The SPLM IO is the first party to declare a cease-fire since signing the deal this week. The leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM IO) and former first vice president and rebel leader, Riek Machar, was not invited to the talks. He was instead asked to send three officials from his group to represent him. Machar has been confined to house arrest by South African authorities since last year.
Henry Odwar, deputy chairman of the SPLM IO Machar-faction, said the agreement looks good and it should be implemented.
"There is a sense of hope; there is a sense that the people of South Sudan are now having a glimpse of peace and hope," Odwar said.
The representatives of Norway, the UK, China, and Japan, the EU, United Nations, African Union and IGAD Forum member countries signed as guarantors of the cease-fire agreement. The representative of the United States declined to sign.